One could argue that slang words like ‘hangry,’ ‘defriend’ and ‘adorkable’ fill crucial meaning gaps in the English language, even if they don't appear in the dictionary. After all, who actually decides which words make it into those vaulted pages? Language historian Anne Curzan gives a charming look at the humans behind dictionaries, and the choices they make on a constant basis. Topics: TedTalks, TED, Talks, culture, language, TEDxUofM, 2014
At TEDxDubai, longtime English teacher Patricia Ryan asks a provocative question: Is the world's focus on English preventing the spread of great ideas in other languages? (For instance: what if Einstein had to pass the TOEFL?) It's a passionate defense of translating and sharing ideas. Topics: TEDTalks, TEDxDubai, TED, Talks, culture, global issues, language, 2010
Why do we argue? To out-reason our opponents, prove them wrong, and, most of all, to win! ... Right? Philosopher Daniel H. Cohen shows how our most common form of argument -- a war in which one person must win and the other must lose -- misses out on the real benefits of engaging in active disagreement. (Filmed at TEDxColbyCollege.) Topics: TEDTalks, TED, Talks, culture, language, philosophy, TEDxColbyCollege, 2013
While working with kids who have trouble speaking, Ajit Narayanan sketched out a way to think about language in pictures, to relate words and concepts in "maps." The idea now powers an app that helps nonverbal people communicate, and the big idea behind it, a language concept called FreeSpeech, has exciting potential. Topics: TedTalks, TED, Talks, disability, language, technology, TED2013, 2013
Tax forms, credit agreements, healthcare legislation: They're crammed with gobbledygook, says Alan Siegel, and incomprehensibly long. He calls for a simple, sensible redesign -- and plain English -- to make legal paperwork intelligible to the rest of us. Topics: TedTalks, TED, Talks, business, language, law, simplicity, TED2010, 2010
Every act of communication is, in some way, an act of translation. Onstage at TEDxRainier, writer Chris Bliss thinks hard about the way that great comedy can translate deep truths for a mass audience. Topics: TEDTalks, TEDxRainier, TED, Talks, communication, entertainment, humor, language, literature, 2011
Most politicians choose their words carefully, to shape the reality they hope to create. But does it work? Etymologist Mark Forsyth shares a few entertaining word-origin stories from British and American history (for instance, did you ever wonder how George Washington became "president"?) and draws a surprising conclusion. (From TEDxHousesofParliament in London) Topics: TEDTalks, TED, Talks, culture, language, politics, TEDxHousesofParliament, 2012
At TEDxRainier, Patricia Kuhl shares astonishing findings about how babies learn one language over another -- by listening to the humans around them and "taking statistics" on the sounds they need to know. Clever lab experiments (and brain scans) show how 6-month-old babies use sophisticated reasoning to understand their world. Topics: TEDTalks, TEDxRainier, TED, Talks, brain, children, language, science, technology, 2010
In an exclusive preview of his book The Stuff of Thought, Steven Pinker looks at language and how it expresses what goes on in our minds -- and how the words we choose communicate much more than we realize. Topics: TEDTalks, TEDGlobal 2005, TED, Talks, culture, language, psychology, science, 2005
More and more, English is a global language; speaking it is perceived as a sign of being modern. But -- what do we lose when we leave behind our mother tongues? Suzanne Talhouk makes an impassioned case to love your own language, and to cherish what it can express that no other language can. In Arabic with subtitles. (Filmed at TEDxBeirut.) Topics: TEDTalks, TED, Talks, culture, education, language, poetry, politics, TEDxBeirut, 2012
For foreigners, learning to speak Chinese is a hard task. But learning to read the beautiful, often complex characters of the Chinese written language may be less difficult. ShaoLan walks through a simple lesson in recognizing the ideas behind the characters and their meaning -- building from a few simple forms to more complex concepts. Call it Chineasy. Topics: TEDTalks, TED, Talks, china, education, language, TED2013, 2013
"We're all going to die -- and poems can help us live with that." In a charming and funny talk, literary critic Stephen Burt takes us on a lyrical journey with some of his favorite poets, all the way down to a line break and back up to the human urge to imagine. Topics: TedTalks, TED, Talks, culture, language, poetry, TEDGlobal 2013, 2013
Which of the following is awesome: your lunch or the Great Pyramid of Giza? Comedian Jill Shargaa sounds a hilarious call for us to save the word "awesome" for things that truly inspire awe. Topics: TedTalks, TED, Talks, comedy, humor, language, TED@NYC, 2014
In this fun, short talk from TEDYouth, lexicographer Erin McKean encourages — nay, cheerleads — her audience to create new words when the existing ones won’t quite do. She lists out 6 ways to make new words in English, from compounding to “verbing,” in order to make language better at expressing what we mean, and to create more ways for us to understand one another. Topics: Tedtalks, TED, Talks, communication, creativity, language, TEDYouth 2014, 2014
Is the beloved paper dictionary doomed to extinction? In this infectiously exuberant talk, leading lexicographer Erin McKean looks at the many ways today's print dictionary is poised for transformation. Topics: TEDTalks, TED2007, TED, Talks, book, culture, education, entertainment, language, 2007
Sure, the web connects the globe, but most of us end up hearing mainly from people just like ourselves. Blogger and technologist Ethan Zuckerman wants to help share the stories of the whole wide world. He talks about clever strategies to open up your Twitter world and read the news in languages you don't even know. Topics: TEDTalks, TED, Talks, communication, global issues, language, news, technology, web, TEDGlobal...
What can economists learn from linguists? Behavioral economist Keith Chen introduces a fascinating pattern from his research: that languages without a concept for the future -- "It rain tomorrow," instead of "It will rain tomorrow" -- correlate strongly with high savings rates. Read more about Chen’s explorations » Topics: TEDTalks, TED, Talks, behavioral economics, business, data, economics, language, TEDGlobal 2012,...
Steven Pinker's book The Blank Slate argues that all humans are born with some innate traits. Here, Pinker talks about his thesis, and why some people found it incredibly upsetting. Topics: TEDTalks, TED, Talks, book, brain, children, culture, language, psychology, science, TED2003, 2003
What can mathematics say about history? According to TED Fellow Jean-Baptiste Michel, quite a lot. From changes to language to the deadliness of wars, he shows how digitized history is just starting to reveal deep underlying patterns. Topics: TEDTalks, TED, Talks, history, language, literature, math, science, TED2012, 2012
Does texting mean the death of good writing skills? John McWhorter posits that there’s much more to texting — linguistically, culturally — than it seems, and it’s all good news. Topics: Tedtalks, TED, Talks, TED Conference, culture, language, sociology, technology, TED2013, 2013
After speaking at TED2007 on elegance in physics, the amazing Murray Gell-Mann gives a quick overview of another passionate interest: finding the common ancestry of our modern languages. Topics: TEDTalks, TED2007, TED, Talks, culture, global issues, history, language, physics, 2007
Jay Walker explains why two billion people around the world are trying to learn English. He shares photos and spine-tingling audio of Chinese students rehearsing English -- "the world's second language" -- by the thousands. Topics: TEDTalks, TED, Talks, United States, business, china, education, global issues, language, TED2009,...
“It’s said that to be a poet, you have to go to hell and back.” Cristina Domenech teaches writing at an Argentinian prison, and she tells the moving story of helping incarcerated people express themselves, understand themselves — and glory in the freedom of language. Watch for a powerful reading from one of her students, an inmate, in front of an audience of 10,000. In Spanish with subtitles. Topics: Tedtalks, TED, Talks, creativity, crime, education, language, poetry, prison, TEDxRiodelaPlata, 2014
For 28 years, Denise Herzing has spent five months each summer living with a pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins, following three generations of family relationships and behaviors. It's clear they are communicating with one another -- but is it language? Could humans use it too? She shares a fascinating new experiment to test this idea. Topics: TEDTalks, TED, Talks, animals, biology, communication, language, oceans, science, TED2013, 2013
Jamila Lyiscott is a “tri-tongued orator”; in her powerful spoken-word essay "Broken English," she celebrates — and challenges — the three distinct flavors of English she speaks with her friends, in the classroom and with her parents. As she explores the complicated history and present-day identity that each language represents, she unpacks what it means to be “articulate.” Topics: TedTalks, TED, Talks, culture, language, race, spoken word, TEDSalon NY2014, 2014
From the EG conference: Productivity guru Tim Ferriss' fun, encouraging anecdotes show how one simple question -- "What's the worst that could happen?" -- is all you need to learn to do anything. Topics: TEDTalks, EG 2008, TED, Talks, book, dance, language, life, productivity, work, 2008
Aphorism enthusiast and author James Geary waxes on a fascinating fixture of human language: the metaphor. Friend of scribes from Aristotle to Elvis, metaphor can subtly influence the decisions we make, Geary says. Topics: TEDTalks, TED, Talks, art, book, language, music, poetry, writing, TEDGlobal 2009, 2009
From simple alphabets to secret symbolic languages, graphic designer Saki Mafundikwa celebrates the many forms of written communication across the continent of Africa. He highlights the history and legacy that are embodied in written words and symbols, and urges African designers to draw on these graphic forms for fresh inspiration. It's summed up in his favorite Ghanaian glyph, Sankofa, which means "return and get it" -- or "learn from the past." Topics: TEDTalks, TED, Talks, Africa, culture, design, language, writing, TED2013, 2013
Rajesh Rao is fascinated by "the mother of all crossword puzzles": How to decipher the 4000 year old Indus script. At TED 2011 he tells how he is enlisting modern computational techniques to read the Indus language, the key piece to understanding this ancient civilization. Topics: TEDTalks, TED2011, TED, Talks, computers, history, language, science, 2011
After re-purposing CAPTCHA so each human-typed response helps digitize books, Luis von Ahn wondered how else to use small contributions by many on the Internet for greater good. At TEDxCMU, he shares how his ambitious new project, Duolingo, will help millions learn a new language while translating the Web quickly and accurately -- all for free. Topics: TEDTalks, TEDxCMU, TED, Talks, Internet, collaboration, computers, language, technology, 2011
Biologist Mark Pagel shares an intriguing theory about why humans evolved our complex system of language. He suggests that language is a piece of "social technology" that allowed early human tribes to access a powerful new tool: cooperation. Topics: TEDTalks, TEDGlobal 2011, TED, Talks, biology, communication, culture, evolution, language,...
With stunning photos and stories, National Geographic Explorer Wade Davis celebrates the extraordinary diversity of the world's indigenous cultures, which are disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate. Topics: TEDTalks, TED2003, TED, Talks, anthropology, culture, environment, film, global issues, language,...
Savage-Rumbaugh's work with bonobo apes, which can understand spoken language and learn tasks by watching, forces the audience to rethink how much of what a species can do is determined by biology -- and how much by cultural exposure. Topics: TEDTalks, TED2004, TED, Talks, Featured, animals, apes, biology, culture, education, evolution,...